Jennifer Maggio

Encountering God

When I was nine years old, I gave my heart to the Lord. I walked to the front of the church, told the pastor that I had accepted Jesus into my heart, went through some Bible classes on what becoming a Christian meant.  That was my very first God encounter.  It was simple and uncomplicated. In my heart, even at such a young age, even if I did not fully understand the magnitude of my own sins, I knew I needed a Savior. That Sunday began my journey with Christ.

I was recently asked to share on God Encounters in my life.  I sat down to write some notes. I began to reflect on the first time I remembered encountering God and the timeline of miracles – both big and small – that was evidenced in my life over the last 30 years.  Beyond my salvation experience (which was a miracle all its own), I remember my first miracle. I was on fire for God, read my Bible every day, attended Sunday school every week, prayed, and talked to God. In a simple yet profound way, I understood that Jesus was my best friend.  My life was pretty crazy at that time. My dad was an alcoholic. My mother had been killed years earlier. I was being abused in my home regularly.  It was chaos, yet I was completely in love with Jesus.

It was during Christmas, and I was about ten years old. My family was wrapping Christmas presents in the living room, and my stepmom asked me for the tape to use for one of the gifts.  I started looking and looking…. and looking.  I simply could not find the tape.  Because I had been abused as a child, I immediately felt fearful that if I did not find that tape, I would be in big trouble!  I looked everywhere I could think.  As a 10-year-old little girl, I decided to go into my bedroom, lie across my bed, and pray about it.  I covered my eyes and started asking God to please show me where the tape was. Within seconds, I got up from the bed and walked straight to my parents’ bedroom, into their closet, and picked up the tape from a shelf inside the closet. Now, I know this is not some earth-shattering miracle. It was my miracle, something God had done for me. My childlike faith believed God heard me and what mattered to me mattered to Him.

God is in the small things, and He is in the big things. God encounters look different for each one of us.  Yes, God encounters, through the years, I have experienced them both big and small.

God saved me from death, the morning my mother was killed, I was in the car with her.

God saved me the day I was choked, almost to death, by an angry relative.

He was there when I had nothing in my refrigerator or cabinets to feed my children. He showed up as a loving neighbor knocking at my door with a warm meal.

I encountered God when my 1984 Mercury broke down on the side of the road repeatedly. With two toddlers in tow, and we began the walk home, he showed up as a friend who just happened to be driving by.

God was there when a random one hundred dollar bill showed up in my mailbox, with no name or address, when I thought I would not have food to eat for the week.

He was there my first Christmas alone as a single mom… and He was there my seventh Christmas alone.

God was there when I was beaten, homeless, and hopeless. 

I have encountered God in thousands of ways in my life. He shows up in every season, whether we acknowledge Him or not. He is there.  Every step in life’s journey leads us to an encounter with our King.

Sometimes, when life has beaten us down, we are worn out, and just tired of being disappointed, it is hard for us to see the encounters of God. Through His faithfulness in my own life, there are a few things I have learned about God encounters:

Do not fear the encounter.   We often fear what we do not understand. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 You may be in a season when you look to the left and to the right and cannot see God. You may fear your future. You may fear what your children are going to become. You may fear that you will always be alone. You may fear your financial future. I do not know what you fear today. But, I want to encourage you that in order for God to show up and do a miracle in your life, you need to be in a prime position. The problem with receiving a miracle is that you have to be in a position to get one.  None of us want to be in that position!  God encounters come at the perfect time, His timing, and in ways we do not understand. Do not fear an encounter with Him. He’s going to show up.

Do not fret the encounter.   Has God ever showed up in your life? Has there ever been a time when only He could have answered your prayers? Of course! Then, why do we fret that He is not going to show up this time, in this situation? Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t’ worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. And then…. You will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Stop worrying if God is going to show up. You will encounter Him. We spend more time worrying about life than actually living life. The recipe for God’s peace is clear — Do not worry about anything.  Pray about everything. Tell Him what you need. Thank Him for what He’s already done.

Do not fail the encounter.  When God shows up, He will show out. He will move mountains. He will bless. He will give freedom. He will replace anger and bitterness with joy. Do not dare, fail the encounter. When He does show up, you must not forget to praise Him all the days of your life. Don’t be a fair-weather Christian. When God shows up for us, we get excited and thankful for about 30 seconds, then we just add another thing to the list. We start asking Him for something else. We start looking for the next high—the next God encounter.  If God never does anything else for us, He has already done enough. He paid for us to live in eternity with Him. He fills our soul with joy. He gives us peace others cannot begin to comprehend. He turns crying into dancing.

Let us all be patient between our God encounters, expectant of future ones, and thankful for the miracles He has already done.

Photo Credit: © Photo by Daniel Reche from Pexels

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 


Who Are You, Really?

 

         Who are you? On the surface, it seems like a simple enough question, doesn’t it? But think about it for just a moment. Who are you? What are the first things that enter your mind in response to that question? When meeting a new friend or colleague, we tend to spout off a list of roles and titles we answer to.  I am a mom, wife, sister, aunt, or friend. In some instances, we answer with a job title. I am a teacher, hairdresser, administrative assistant, or business owner. Sometimes we begin by discussing a current or future project, such as I’m writing a book, joining the church choir, or launching a single mom’s ministry in my community.

            When most of us are asked who we are, we respond by stating what we do. As women, we are doers by nature. We are always fixing something or someone. We hold life together, don’t we? I often joke with my husband that if something happens to me, he is going to struggle with knowing what to do next – where to locate the important papers, his socks, or our children!

I recently read an online comic that described the differences between how women and men get ready for bed. A woman determines she is tired at 8:00 pm and begins the journey of putting the children down for bed. This is, of course, after she has cooked dinner, cleaned the kitchen, helped with homework, and bathed the children. After thirty minutes of bedtime stories, prayers, and repeated potty visits, the children are tucked in. It is only then that the woman remembers she needs to thaw out meat for dinner tomorrow. While she is in the kitchen, she will start a grocery list for the weekend and jot a few things on a to-do list for tomorrow. Oh, and there is one more load of laundry that needs to be washed, so might as well get that going too. She throws in some detergent and starts the load. On her way to the bedroom, she notices dirty socks on the floor that need to be taken to the laundry and a shirt on the dresser that needs a button sewn on. After handling those tasks, she finally goes into the bedroom, changing for bed; she notices that her fingernails could probably use a quick polish, and her clothes for tomorrow could use a touch from the iron. Finally, at 10:45 pm, she tiredly collapses into bed. The difference with her husband? He determines he is tired at 10:00 pm, and he heads to bed!

Now, of course, this is all in good fun, and many of us are blessed with husbands that help with so much around the house. But the point is, as women, we are wired differently. We see to all the details of the little things that help us (and others around us) function smoothly throughout the day. We are chauffeurs, counselors, dishwashers, consultants, chefs, clothes-washers, and fixer-of-all-boo-boo’s. All of that is fine with a proper perspective. The danger lies in the doing becoming the defining.

Then, he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” Mark 8:29.

I find this verse fascinating. Jesus wanted to know if the disciples fully understood who He is. They were witnessing His miracles and experiencing first-hand His presence. Yet, Jesus knew it was important that the disciples understood, exactly, who He is. The same is true for us. We must fully understand who Jesus is in us and fully understand who we are in Him.

Only one thing is eternal – our relationship with Jesus. Beauty fades. Positions change. Titles come and go. Unfortunately, relationships sometimes fail. Friends and family sometimes pass away. Children grow up. When our marital status (whether single or married) becomes who we are and what we live for, we must refocus. When what our children do and say becomes our everything, we must refocus. When our beauty (whether we see ourselves as such or lacking thereof) defines us, we must refocus. When a ministry platform (such as Sunday school teacher, member of the choir, author of a book, or anything else for that matter) becomes our worth, we must refocus.

When anything – anything at all – becomes the determining factor of who we are, we must desperately seek the Word of God to set our sights on what He says about who we are.  The same is true in how we see other believers, as well. We cannot place worth on how many members are in his church or her Sunday School class. We cannot be concerned with the size of bank accounts or job titles.  None of those things matter. We work not for salvation—it was given freely. We choose to work because we are saved.

We are daughters of the living God, the King of Kings. We are not defined by what we do – whether good or bad – rather by what Jesus did on the Cross for us. We can never earn more love from our Lord. He loves us infinitely. I have a confession. I am a “striver.” There is just no doubt about it. I like to get an atta-girl affirmation. I like to accomplish goals and write out to-do lists just to mark things off the list. I like five-year plans and twenty-year visions. I am hopeful of one-day hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” from my Heavenly Father.  But what I must, must, must understand (and so do you) is that striving for excellence is not about earning a position, title, platform, and certainly not about earning my Heavenly Father’s love. It is not about becoming anything yet knowing I am everything to my Heavenly Father. What defines who we are is simply being. Being a daughter of the Creator of Heaven. Being His beloved. Being chosen to spend eternity with Him.

Photo Credit: © Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

 

*** Article first appeared on iBelieve.com. 

 


Ministry Leaders Worn Out and Weary

Ministry Leaders Worn Out and Weary  

      I bumped into a friend a few weeks ago, and she asked how I was doing. My response was, “I’m tired.” We chatted for a while, and I began to think and pondered over how many times I had responded with that same answer over the previous months. How many times have I thought about my exhaustion over the years?  Often, I jokingly say that I haven’t slept in twenty years and hadn’t truly rested since I had kids. Although it is a joke, there is some truth to the weariness we can fall under as ministry leaders. 

      Ministry is different from anything else you will ever do. You cannot compare it to working a 9:00 to 5:00 job. Many of you still do that in addition to leading your ministry, bathing the kids, balancing family tasks, and doing homework with the kids. Ministry is, by far, my most demanding task, and there is a big reason for that. Satan wants to make you quit. When you move from being just a quiet Christian to being a Kingdom warrior, Satan gets scared. When you decide that you will impact single mom's lives for Christ, Satan gets it. He understands that you are serious, and he will do anything in his power to stop you. That means, when the kids make a mess in their bedrooms, it irks you just a little more than it used to. When your co-worker responds with an attitude, you are just a little more bent out of shape. Everything just seems harder and heavier than it did before you got into ministry. 

      Many people will simply quit when Satan puts the pressure on.  Why do you think so many pastors quit after twenty years? There have been several studies, and a surmountable amount of research conducted focused on pastors and the weights they carry. You are pastoring! You may not be doing it with the formality of title or behind a pulpit, but make no mistake, it is important work.  

      My best advice? Rest! Rest well and rest often. Put up boundaries with the moms you serve and make them adhere to them. Do not allow them to call you at all hours of the night. Do not internalize a passing criticism as eternal truth. Protect your physical, mental, and spiritual being; do not take on their problems as if they are yours. And yes, I will say it again, REST.  

One of my many favorite scriptures are:  

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. So, let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.” Hebrews 4:1, 9 

God wants you to REST! He wants you to be refilled through prayer, worship music, healthy boundaries, quiet walks, sabbaticals, and then…when rested, get back up, pick up your sword and fight on! 

 

Photo Credit: © Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

 

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and currently serves more than 1,500 churches.

The Life of a Single Mom has served 406,000 single mothers over the last decade and counting.  Maggio is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.

Jennifer Maggio is a national voice for single mothers and hurting women. Her personal story has been featured in hundreds of media venues including The New York Times, Daystar Television, The 700 Club, and many others. She is CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, a national nonprofit that works with churches to develop single mom’s programs and serves more than 1,500 churches and 71,000 single mothers annually.  She is an author of several books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She also hosts the podcast Single Mom 101, which you can find at LifeAudio.com. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com or check out her Facebook and Instagram pages.